Tonight’s Interleague Lineup: Sheffield as DH and the “Small Ball DH Theory”

Here is tonight’s lineup. Predictably, the Mets will use Gary Sheffield as their designated hitter:

Daniel Murphy  1B
Ryan Church  RF
Carlos Beltran  CF
Gary Sheffield  DH
David Wright  3B
Jeremy Reed  LF
Omir Santos  C
Ramon Martinez  SS
Luis Castillo  2B

On a related note, Joe and I have been working on a theory that National League teams might be better off letting pitchers hit in certain games at AL ballparks. For lack of a catchier title, we are calling it the “Small Ball DH Theory” – named after a new minor league website we are working on.

Now, before you call me crazy, consider this:

  • Jeremy Reed might be more useful as a LH pinch hitter and/or defensive replacement than as a #6 hitter
  • If Santana can go seven solid innings and leave with a lead or a close game, he will likely only hit 3 times. If he can lay down two good sacrifice bunts, we are only talking about “giving up” one at-bat.
  • Most NL teams lack an extra competent bat and therefore they have a hard time winning on the road in interleague play. Since 1997, only two NL teams have winning road records.
  • Since 2004, the number of NL teams with winning yearly road records since 2004 is 15 out of a possible 80 (16 teams x 5 years = 80 teams). This suggests to me that NL teams do themselves no favors by asking a part-time bat to step into a regular role. Jeremy Reed is a solid ballplayer, but he’s no David Ortiz.
  • By contrast, the number of AL teams with winning yearly road records since 2004 is 40 out of a possible 70 (14 teams x 5 years = 70 teams). This suggests to me that the AL is able to adapt to NL rules easier because they wind up with an everyday bat coming off the bench in later innings.
  • American League rules dictate that a team’s bench players will be used sparingly. However, NL teams typically have a deeper bench which allows a manager to play matchups in the late innings. This advantage is squandered by using the DH.

This theory would probably only work when there is an above average pitcher going for the NL team, because you want to be able to use sac bunts, double switches and late inning pinch-hitters in a close game. For instance, if Santana leaves tonight with a 2-1 lead, Jerry Manuel will have a distinct advantage because he will have his entire bench (including Reed) at his disposal as he mixes and matches his pitchers and his pinch-hitters.

In contrast, if Livan Hernandez was starting, you might expect him to go five innings and leave the game trailing 5-2 (or worse). In that case, it’s probably better to get Reed into the lineup from the get-go, just to keep the team in the game.

As I said, this is just a theory we have been working on. We may be wrong, but it’s something to think about during tonight’s game. We will be posting more about this when our research is completed.

John Fitzgerald is an independent film/TV producer. In 2007, he followed former Mets 2B Wally Backman and his minor league team for the TV show, "Playing for Peanuts." Click here for DVD ordering information NOTE: $5 from each sale goes to maintenance costs of MetsToday.com